Cancelled Christmas parties ‘heavy blow’ for hospitality industry

Public Health Scotland advised Scots to cancel festive gatherings amid fears over the Omicron variant.

Cancelled Christmas parties ‘heavy blow’ for hospitality industry iStock
Cancelled: Hospitality industry served 'heavy blow' as Christmas parties cancelled.

The decision to advise Scots to cancel their Christmas parties is a ‘heavy blow’ for the hospitality industry, an industry expert has said. 

On Thursday, Public Health Scotland urged people to defer Christmas parties this year due to the number of Covid-19 outbreaks linked to such events, as well as fears over new variant Omicron.

The new guidance came just days after health secretary Humza Yousaf said people across Scotland should continue with their Christmas plans but “make them safer”.

It is feared the last minute cancellations will hit the hospitality industry hard, who “really needed this Christmas to be a good one”, Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) spokesman Stephen Montgomery said. 

He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We know that hospitality is a safe place to be, we’ve invested millions over the last 20 months in whether it be ventilation, extra staff to make sure people are kept safe or washing down tables etc.

“This is a heavy, heavy blow for hospitality.”

The SHG comprises many restaurant and bar businesses, including the DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group and The Townhead Hotel in Lockerbie.

Mr Montgomery said members are already feeling the impact after Public Health Scotland advised people to cancel their parties. 

He said: “From the time the PHS statement came out about 5, 5.30pm, it was just non-stop and personally myself through SHG I’ve been in here since about 2.30am answering emails, getting back to customers, getting back to members, getting back to general people who were asking.

“Today I think we need the First Minister or a senior member of the government to make a strong public statement to steady the ship and that we all know where we are going to be for Christmas because January is predominantly a quiet month for hospitality and last year we had what we called a Cinderella Christmas where everybody had to be home and in bed (by) midnight, so we really needed this Christmas to be a good one and we know hospitality is a safe place to be.”

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said she is “extremely sympathetic” to the concerns of the hospitality sector and will do anything she can to provide assistance.

She stated that within a fixed budget extra help needs to come from the UK Government and said that the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have asked for this a number of times, with another request sent yesterday.

Forbes told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “Quite clearly we are growing concerned at the rate at which Omicron is transmitting across communities and quite clearly we’ve learned time and again that preventative action means less drastic action later down the line.”

The First Minister will hold a briefing on Friday amid a surge in Omicron variant cases in Scotland.